A section of Sikh activists in the United States have claimed that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned them about threats to their life after Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar's death in Canada.
Nijjar, a designated terrorist, was killed in June in Canada's British Columbia province. He was the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), which is also a designated terrorist organisation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has claimed that there are "credible allegations of a potential link" of Indian government's involvement in Nijjar's killing. Trudeau's allegations and the subsequent exchange of escalatory measures have plunged the India-Canada ties to a new low, which were already strained for years over the safe haven that the Khalistan movement has found in Canada, particularly under Trudeau's government.
It is in these circumstances that claims have been made that the FBI warned a section of Sikh leaders about threats to their life, according to The Intercept.
The Intercept reported that California-based Sukhman Dhami has said that Sikh community leaders in the United States supporting the Khalistan movement have been warned about such threats.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a separate nation for the Sikhs out of India called Khalistan. For decades, the movement waged a bloody insurgency in India that finally ebbed in the 1990s. While the insurgency ebbed in the 1990s, the Khalistan movement continues to have strong pockets of influence abroad, particularly in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, where a number of Khalistan terrorist figures are based and are engaged in anti-India activities.
California-based Dhami, founder of a group called Ensaaf, told The Intercept that warnings have been issued throughout the United States.
"We have also received messages that certain community leaders associated with politics of Sikh self-determination have recently been visited by law enforcement and warned that they may be targets," said Dhami to The Intercept.
What India terms a secessionist movement to violently carve out a separate Sikh nation is referred to as self-determination by those neutral on the Khalistan issue or supportive of the issue.
Pritpal Singh, Coordinator for the American Sikh Caucus Committee, told The Intercept that he and two other Sikh leaders received warnings from the FBI.
"I was visited by two FBI special agents in late June who told me that they had received information that there was a threat against my life. They did not tell us specifically where the threat was coming from, but they said that I should be careful," said Singh to The Intercept, which reported that the two other Sikh leaders chose to remain anonymous.
Moninder Singh from Canada's British Columbia province, who The Intercept describes as a long-time friend of terrorist Nijjar, told the outlet that Nijjar and five others in Canada received warnings of "imminent risk of assassination" but were not informed of Indian hand behind it.
The India-Canada relations are at a new low at the moment as Trudeau continues to press the allegations and India forcefully rejects the charge. Following the claim that he made in the parliament, Trudeau's government expelled a senior Indian diplomat posted in Canada and outed him as Indian intelligence official. In a tit for tat reaction to the expulsion, India expelled a Canadian diplomat posted in India understood to be from a Canadian intelligence official. Moreover, India ordered the downsizing of the Canadian missions in India and suspended visa services for Canadian nationals.
Forcefully rejecting Trudeau's claims, India has said that it is Canada that has emerged as a safe haven for terrorists.
For a long time, the India-Canada ties have been strained for the safe haven that the Khalistan movement has found in Canada. The movement has found particular tolerance under Trudeau's government. The India-Canada tensions were also visible during the G20 Summit where Trudeau was snubbed by India and he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a tense meeting. Following the meeting, India issued a particularly harsh readout, saying that Modi "conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada".
"They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," said the Indian readout further.
Following Trudeau's allegations, India issued an advisory warning of "politically-condoned" anti-India activities in Canada. The usage of the phrase "politically-condoned" reflects the support that the Khalistan movement and anti-India elements in Canada receive from Trudeau, his party and allies, and his government.
The media reports so far have said that Canadian officials have claimed that the allegations against India are based on human and technical intelligence, which include intercepts of communications between Indian diplomats and officials. Some intelligence was also provided by the United States, according to The New York Times, which added that the 'core' intelligence behind Canadian claims —the purported intercepts of communications between Indian diplomats and officials— was collected by the Canadians themselves.